The left is jubilant that Mitt Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as his vice president running mate. The argument seems to be that Americans, by a significant majority, do not agree with the values that Ryan holds, particularly the values that are actually reflected in the “Ryan budget.” Values such as significant cuts to Medicare/Medicaid, privatizing social security and tax cuts for the rich at the expense of programs for the poor. The reasoning is that because we say we disagree with these values, we will vote against a Romney/Ryan ticket. The specific strategic argument is that this ticket loses Florida (a must win swing state) because Ryan’s budget eviscerates Medicare and threatens Social Security.
The problem with these arguments is that they fly in the face of America’s actual past behavior. When Barak Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate, conventional wisdom said he’d shot himself in the foot — Biden was another Northerner, and too liberal to help Obama get votes he needed — especially in key swing states like Florida. But Obama and Biden were such a charismatic match that they won over voters. Decades ago, the Clinton Health Care bill had provisions that American’s said they wanted. Yet, when popular politicians got done spinning it, it went down in flames.
And the Left’s response to the choice of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate completely fails to appreciate what an attractive team these two will make. In the few images that are already available Romney and Ryan are very charismatic — they look like they are having fun and enjoying one another. The Left has, so far, totally failed to understand how important this is.
The reality of American voters is that we do NOT vote our stated values. Unfortunately, we vote on charisma. Richard Nixon did not change his positions after his loss to Kennedy in 1960. Instead he hired a media consultant to help him remake his image. And when he ran eight years later, his new image (not new positions) won over voters.
For the past four years, polls have consistently shown that Americans support affordable health care, a continued social safety net for the poor, continuing Medicare and Social Security, without major changes. Yet these values do not translate into support for politicians that vote for these values. Instead, we continue to elect politicians who do not reflect those values. So the test of America this year will be: will we vote our stated values? Or will charisma trump values ?